Rail firm hires museum stock

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The Independent Online
A train company is using 40-year-old passenger carriages rescued from a steam train museum because "they are much cheaper than new rolling stock", writes Christian Wolmar.

Other train operators are likely to follow suit in renting museum and scrapped stock because of the high charges resulting from rail privatisation.

Regional Railways South Wales and West, which attracted notoriety last summer when it imposed a 56 per cent fares rise on schoolchildren using an overcrowded train, has hired eight coaches built in the 1950s and 1960s for its services.

The company, which is soon to be privatised but is still owned by BR, has signed a contract with Carnforth Railway Restoration Services, which is part of the Steam Town Railway Museum in north Lancashire.

A spokesman for South Wales and West defended the move which is to be highlighted on the BBC's You and Yours programme today. He said: "We needed extra coaches and these carriages offer better value than using newer stock. This contract, which was to a very high specification, meets our needs by enabling us to offer additional coaches to customers on overcrowded services."

The use of the old coaches is a result of the privatisation of the three companies which together own all the coaches and locomotives formerly owned by British Rail and which were sold for pounds 1.8bn late last year.

Because of the high price paid for the rolling stock, the companies lease out carriages at a very high rate and train operators cannot afford to hire coaches which they will only use occasionally.

The museum coaches are being used for peak services between Cardiff and Manchester and on special trains for the rugby internationals at Cardiff. The company also expects to use them this summer for services between Swansea, Bristol, and Weymouth.